AP/PHIL2020 3.0 A: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz

Offered by: PHIL


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

The works of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz are crucial building blocks of our contemporary understanding of the world. This course examines their work. Course credit exclusions: GL/PHIL 2620 6.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Professor Jim Vernon


Office Location:  S427 Ross Building

Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. 33519

Office Hours:  TBA

    Expanded Course Description

This course is an introduction to the philosophical thought of the three most important rationalist philosophers of the seventeenth century: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. We will examine and discuss their solutions to the following problems of metaphysics and epistemology: the nature of reality, innate ideas, the foundations of knowledge, the existence of God, the relation between reason and emotion, the mind-body problem, and why there is order rather than chaos.

    Required Course Text / Readings
  1. R. Descartes, Discourse on Method; Meditations on First Philosophy. Trans. by D.A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett).
  2. B. Spinoza, Ethics; Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect; Selected Letters. Trans. by S. Shirley, ed. by S. Feldman (Indianapolis: Hackett).
  3. G.W. Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics and Other Essays. Ed. and trans. by D. Garber and R. Ariew (Indianapolis: Hackett).
    Weighting of Course

Mid-term exam 25%

Term Paper 35%

Take-Home Final Exam 40%

    Organization of the Course

Reading/lecture schedule TBA, but will begin with Descartes and end with Leibniz.

The course is designed as a combination of lecture and discussion. Please do all the assigned readings, be prepared to discuss them, and bring the text to class with you. There will be a moodle website; by department policy, the take home exam and the final essay must be submitted to turnitin.com.

    Course Learning Objectives
  • Students should be able to interpret and critically appraise arguments from the rationalist tradition, and present their results in a clear and compelling written form.

Students should be able to compare and evaluate the basic arguments of the central authors in the early modern rationalist tradition of Western philosophy.

    Relevant Links / Resources